By Daniel Weintraub
By a narrow margin, California voters prefer to balance the state’s budget with a mix of spending cuts and tax increases, according to a new independent poll released Wednesday. But almost as many people say they would erase the state’s entire deficit mostly with spending cuts.
The survey, by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California, found that 42 percent of likely voters prefer a mix of taxes and cuts to balance the budget, while 41 percent would do the job mostly with cuts and 7 percent think the gap should be filled mainly by raising taxes.
Most voters say the program they want to protect most from spending cuts is kindergarten-through-12th grade education. Fifty-seven percent of likely said the schools should be protected, followed by 18 percent who said higher education, 13 percent for health and human services, and 8 percent who said the prisons should be shielded from cuts.
Respondents seemed to be more open to tax hikes when asked if they would pay higher taxes to support specific programs. The most — 64 percent of likely voters — said they would pay higher taxes to preserve current spending levels for the public schools. Fifty percent said they would be OK with higher taxes to protect university spending, and 49 percent would support higher taxes for health and human services. Only 17 percent said they would be willing to pay more taxes to maintain prison spending at current levels.
But support for particular tax increases has declined over time. In this poll, raising taxes on the wealthy was favored by 62 percent of likely voters. That’s down from 69 percent in January 2004. And 51 percent of likely voters favored raising taxes on business — down from about 60 percent in 2005, 2007 and 2008. Majorities oppose raising the vehicle license fee or extending the sales tax to services.
The poll also asked voters about a number of budget reform proposals. The results among likely voters:
Pay-as-you-go-budgeting: 83 percent support
Two-year budgeting: 82 percent
Legislators forfeit pay when budget is late: 82 percent
Increase size of rainy day fund: 76 percent
Strictly limit spending growth: 72 percent
Require 2/3 vote for fees that replace taxes: 57 percent
Lower threshold for passing budget to simple majority: 51 percent
Lower threshold for passing budget and raising taxes to simple majority: 44 percent
See the entire poll at www.ppic.org